Redefining Identity with Question Bridge

Installation view Question Bridge AW

Installation view of Question Bridge: Black Males and the accompanying in-gallery interactive station

On your next visit to the Phillips, don’t miss a gallery on the second floor which has been temporarily converted into a theater for the recently opened Question Bridge: Black Males installation. The documentary-style video art project aims to represent and redefine black male identity in America. Like the subjects on the screen, visitors are invited to answer questions and leave responses at an interactive station in the gallery.

Spotlight on Intersections@5: Nicholas and Sheila Pye

The Phillips celebrates the fifth anniversary of its Intersections contemporary art series with Intersections@5, an exhibition comprising work by 20 of the participating artists. In this blog series, each artist writes about his or her work on view.


Nicholas Pye and Sheila Pye, The Coronation, 2008. Single channel video with sound. Gift of the artists and Andrea Pollan

The Coronation is an installation project incorporating a blend of experimental and narrative techniques to shape a cinematic perspective that employs visual language commonly used in painting. The installation is composed of three parts, with all three cinematic ‘panels’ playing simultaneously. The concept for the installation was inspired by altarpiece triptychs from the Renaissance and Medieval periods in art history. Our aim was to create a modern allegorical interpretation of the triptych using video and sound. The center component became a conceptual performance based work on a loop, and projected in the portrait format.  The centerpiece is flanked on either side by two life sized figures of a man and a woman also projected in portrait format.  This work is not a narrative in the typical sense, but rather a series of constructed tableaus existing in a theatrical world.

Nicholas and Sheila Pye

When Does Art Become Multimedia?

Two visitors sit on a bench in the middle of the Rothko Room at the Phillips

Oil on canvas or multimedia? Image: The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Photo: Benjamin Resine

Recent discussions of Bernhard Hildebrandt’s A Conjugation of Verb both here and elsewhere have encouraged me to reconsider the idea of “multimedia” art. The installation is a clear multimedia experience, combining visual art with sound and video to convey meaning. When visiting the exhibition last week, a friend commented that he found the work especially interesting within the context of a collection dominated by more straightforward examples of visual art. His remark prompted me to consider the extent to which many, if not all, pieces of art in the Phillips can actually be seen as multimedia works.

Take, for example, the Rothko Room. Unlike some of the Phillips’s more open galleries, this space is very small and intimate, eliciting silence and contemplation. The layout of the room is also of note; when Rothko visited the Phillips in 1961, he requested that the furniture in the space be limited to a single bench. In this sense, though the four Rothko paintings are remarkable and evocative on their own, the experience of viewing them at the Phillips is inseparable from the experience of inhabiting the gallery itself. The space—from its size and attributes to its ambience and furnishings (or lack thereof)—can be considered not only a vehicle for viewing the medium of art, but a medium itself.

We often don’t consider the ways in which the color of a wall or the lighting of a room affects our interpretation of an artwork. Yet all of these media, though traditionally seen as external to the artwork, form a context inextricably tied to our perceptions. With its carefully mediated spaces, Hildebrandt’s installation seems to make that concept explicit. What experiences have you had when place came together with art?

Marissa Medansky, Director’s Office Intern